THE SONG CYCLE
Waves & Lines is a 50-minute multimedia song cycle for soprano, electronics and chamber ensemble, written by composer Gemma Peacocke based on a collection of Afghan women’s folk poems called landays. These poems are passed down secretly as a sung oral tradition and were collected and translated by Pulitzer prize-winner Eliza Griswold in the book I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays from contemporary Afghanistan.
Landays comprise a single rhyming couplet on subjects like love, grief, home, and war. They relay both a collective and a very individual experience so vivid and relatable that it is hard not to be captivated by the passion, desperation, and humour of the authors. The ultraconservative regime of the Taliban has meant that the lives of Afghan women are largely invisible to the outside world. Landays offer a surprising and vivid glimpse into this secret world.
Exploring the distance, anonymity and strange intimacy of phone calls, text messages, and radio broadcasts in which the poems are shared, the song cycle features the use of fixed electronics and projections.
Waves & Lines premiered in New York in 2017 and was released as an album on New Amsterdam in 2019.
Waves & Lines was most recently performed at The Kennedy Center in Washington DC on September 11, 2019, by Molly Netter, Borah Han, Tristan Kasten-Krause, and Adam Holmes.
The album was launched with a performance on International Women's Day (March 8, 2019) at National Sawdust with a performance by Eliza Bagg, Borah Han, Pat Swoboda, and Adam Holmes.
A selection of songs from Waves & Lines was performed as part of a portrait concert of the composer on the Evolution Series in Baltimore.
Waves & Lines was given its Australian premiere by award-winning Australian ensemble Rubiks Collective with singer Georgie Darvidis at the Melbourne Recital Centre in April 2018 as part of the Metropolis Festival.
The work was premiered by Eliza Bagg, Borah Han, Shawn Lovato, and Adam Holmes at Brooklyn’s Roulette Intermedium in June 2017 with the support of Roulette and the Jerome L Green Commissioning Fund.
I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan
by Eliza Griswold (Translation), Seamus Murphy (Photographs)
Because my love's American,
blisters blossom on my heart.
Landays are an ancient form of oral folk poetry created by and for mostly illiterate women. From Facebook to drone strikes, to the songs of the ancient caravans that first brought these poems to Afghanistan thousands of years ago, landays reflect contemporary Afghan life and the impact of three decades of war. These poems are passed secretly between women and were compiled by Eliza Griswold in the book I Am the Beggar of the World.
After learning the story of a teenage girl who was forbidden to write poems and set herself on fire in protest, the poet Eliza Griswold and the photographer Seamus Murphy journeyed through Afghanistan to meet Afghan women and to collect their landays.
“I Am the Beggar of the World is a great and satisfying work. I applaud Eliza Griswold and Seamus Murphy. It is an essential look at the women of Afghanistan and the voices of dissent at risk of being suppressed when the American forces withdraw.”
―Sahera Sharif, Member of Afghanistan’s Parliament, founder of nationwide women’s literary circle, Mirman Baheer
“The poems in I Am the Beggar of the World cut like a knife-they are short, sharp-and leave you bleeding. They are the most direct voices of the inner life of Afghan women, and prove that these women, despite all hardships, are still standing. These two-liners make the reader feel close to the women that we've seen so often on the screen wandering like blue-clad ghosts on the dusty roadsides. A heart is a heart anywhere in the world.”
―Åsne Seierstad, author of The Bookseller of Kabul